Instapaper vs. Pocket

June 23, 2015

In general, when I find an app or service that “suits me,” I tend to stick with it. This is, however, untrue regarding two types of apps: productivity suites, and read-later services.

Since it’s 2015, anyone who even remotely enjoys reading a variety of online content probably uses (or has used) Instapaper or Pocket. The two are at constant odds of being the read-later “industry leader,” and I have gone back and forth between them probably more than anyone else out there besides Justin Blanton himself.

I’d like to detail a few pros and cons for each. (It should be noted that 90% of my use occurs on iOS, so these are basically reviews of the apps, not their web counterparts.) I’m currently using Pocket, and always seem to go back to it. Why?

Pocket handles “media” infinitely better than Instapaper does.

I also use read-later services as bookmarking services, and send more than just articles to it—often, my Pocket queue contains podcasts that I want to listen to, videos to watch, and websites to check out later. For these purposes, Instapaper doesn’t stand a chance. It’s easier to open one of these links in Pocket and jump straight the website, watch the video, or whatever action I want to take. Opening a link to a webpage or a Youtube video on Instapaper feels like I’m confusing the app.

Instapaper is much better for reading.

Instapaper as a whole is just prettier, and lends itself more to a pleasant reading experience than Pocket does. Instapaper has more fonts to choose from (and more customizable typography in general,) and the light/dark themes both seem very “designy” and reader-friendly. When I want to read a long-form article and plan to be there a while, Instapaper is much more appealing. Pocket, on the other hand, can feel too utilitarian.

Pocket feels faster, and Instapaper can sometimes feel cumbersome.

Articles are just quicker to load in Pocket, whereas Instapaper often feels slow and awkward when trying to open and parse longer or more-complex articles. Instapaper is not slow by any means—Pocket, for my uses, is just much nimbler.

Instapaper is updated much more frequently.

It seems like every couple months, Instapaper has released a fun new feature, whereas Pocket always seems to lag behind. Instapaper has more features in general, with TweetShot being a huge selling point for me. In fact, I can’t remember the last time Pocket was updated (and if it was recently, it must’ve clearly been a rather bland update.)

I simply can’t afford Instapaper Premium

This isn’t truly a fault of Betaworks’. However, for a fully-functional Instapaper (like search, for instance), one needs to dish out $30/year, which isn’t a horrific price to pay for such features, but it’s just well outside of my budget. I’ve always been able to get full functionality out of Pocket without feeling the need to upgrade.

There are perhaps a few other things to bring up, but for the most part, the above covers my primary concerns with each.

Why do I keep coming back to Pocket, then? The biggest points, for me, are the perceived speed differences between the two and the “mood” each app brings. In Instapaper, every article feels so serious and heavy, whereas in Pocket the queue feels lighter and a lot easier to manage. The other selling point for Pocket is how it handles videos and other forms of media, which Instapaper still needs some serious work on. These key things keep me coming back to Pocket, though every month or two I still find myself trying out Instapaper to see if something else clicks.